Friday, April 02, 2010

Lecture: A Brief History of Automata

Lecture: A Brief History of AutomataIf you will be in the NYC area on April 14th, this looks like a fascinating lecture and demonstration...

About this lecture:
"In this illustrated lecture, "Obscura Antique and Oddities", Mike Zohn will demonstrate his 19th Century taxidermy automata, as featured in last year’s Carnivorous Nights Taxidermy Contest. He will explain its curious mechanisms, and, in an illustrated lecture, will introduce us to the history of these fascinating uncanny machines, tracing their trajectory from tools of religious coercion to prince’s plaything to Disney’s imagineering experiments."

Lecture: A Brief History of Automata
Lecturer: Mike Zohn, Obscura Antiques and Oddities
Date: Wednesday, April 14th
Time: 7:00 PM
Location: Coney Island Museum, 1208 Surf Ave. Brooklyn

Here is a link to more information from the lecture announcement.

[ Thanks Caleb! ]

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Automata exhibit at the Miami Science Museum

Automata exhibit at the Miami Science Museum
Head on over to the Cabaret Mechanical blog to get all the details on an exhibit of automata now showing at the Miami Science Museum through to September. The exhibit features automata from Cabaret Mechanical Theatre and from the collection of Dr. Andrew R. Hirschl.

Here's the news of the Miami, Florida automata exhibit at the Cabaret Blog. Here's is info about the show from the Miami Science Museum.

[ Thanks Ellen! ]

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Kinetica Art Fair 2010 - London, Feb. 4th - 7th, 2010

Kinetica Art Fair 2010
Kinetica Art Fair 2010 developed by Kinetica Museum will take place in London from February 4th to 7th. Over 25 galleries and organizations specializing in kinetic, electronic, and new media art are taking part and over 150 artists exhibiting.

From the Kinetica 2010 press release:
A family of holographic light beings, sculpting and drawing robots, an orchestral milk float, a giant vertical electronic wave and a special feature exhibition of work from the masters of kinetic art and the groundbreaking Cybernetic Serendipity show, are just some of the incredible exhibits at Kinetica Art Fair 2010. Kinetica Art Fair takes place from 4 - 7 February 2010 at the P3 space in London and is the UK's only art fair dedicated to kinetic, robotic, sound, light and time-based art. Art that has a life of its own, talks, workshops, performances and more create an art fair like no other.

Visit the Kinetica 2010 web site for more information about this amazing event.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Automata: Contemporary Mechanical Sculpture

Automata: Contemporary Mechanical Sculpture The folks at the incredible Cabaret Mechanical Theatre blog have sent word that there is new autoamta exhibit in Madison, WI at the Chazen Museum of Art running from January 16, through March 14, 2010.

From the exhibit press release:
"The Chazen Museum of Art presents the delightful work of fourteen international artists in Automata: Contemporary Mechanical Sculpture. Meticulously crafted to perform complex, surprising, and often comic movements, these mechanical sculptures tell quick fanciful tales of nature, myth and magic, the creative process, and sheer make-believe. More than 25 hand-cranked artist-designed automata, most loaned from the private collection of University of Arizona art professor emeritus Michael Croft, will be on view January 16 through March 14, 2010. Videos will play in the gallery to show the animated workings of the pieces. Museum admission is free."

Here is a link to more information on exhibit on the Chazen Museum web site.

[ Thanks to the Cabaret Mechanical blog! ]

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Mechanical door knocker interior mechanism

Taylor Shepherd, an artist working out of New Orleans, created this wooden cam-driven machine which rhythmically interrupts the audio circuits on AM an FM and CB radios contained in a box fronted by a two-way mirror and triggered by a motion sensor. The piece is included in an installation by the Society for Decoration and Sacrifice at Barrister's Gallery in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cabaret Mechanical Theatre's exhibition in Spain

Here is a video with a few highlights from Cabaret Mechanical Theatre's exhibition at El Parque de Las Ciencias in Granada, Spain -- including work from Russian theater company Sharmanka. I wish I could be there to see it in person!

Here is where you can learn more about the amazing Cabaret Mechanical Theatre.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Maillardet's automaton at Franklin Institute

Maillardet's automaton at the Franklin Institute
I had the chance to visit Philadelphia recently, location of The Franklin Institute whose stated mission is "to inspire an understanding of and passion for science and technology learning." For this visitor, they did just that.

The Institute has several traveling exhibits and at least ten continuing exhibits that fulfill their mission admirably. I was there to see one thing in particular. You see, the Franklin Institute is home to one of the world's great mechanical treasures: The Maillardet Automaton.

The automaton is the centerpiece of the Institute's Amazing Machines exhibit -- and with good reason. Created somewhere between 1800 an 1810, the Automaton has the largest "memory" of any such machine ever created. It is capable of drawing four sketches and writing three poems (two in French and one in English).

To see what I mean, check out this video of the automaton in action.
I was fortunate enough to have been able to see the automaton in operation the day I visited -- a rare event, since it is not demonstrated on a regular basis.

I was greeted by several friendly and helpful museum officials. Most of my time was spent with Charles Penniman -- a long-time researcher, caretaker, and operator of the automaton. Mr. Penniman demonstrated how the machine's two spring-driven motors are wound, the writing instrument calibrated, and the machine set into motion. He answered my questions and pointed out various details of the machine and its sophisticated sequences of action.

Seeing the brass skeletonized figure of a boy spring to life, deftly guiding a writing instrument over a blank sheet of paper to create an intricate sketch or a beautifully penned poem filled me with awe. As someone who appreciates mechanical things, there was no doubt that I was in the presence of greatness.

Below is one of the drawings the automaton creates -- a landscape depicting a Chinese palace.
Drawing by Maillardet's Automaton
To my mind, Maillardet's Automaton has to be one of the most impressive unions of mechanical engineering and artistry that has ever been created.

Beyond its antiquity and complexity, the automaton has a fascinating history. At one point, the automaton verified its own origin when, restored to working order, it signed one of its poems in French with the statement "Written by Maillardet's Automaton" (below).
Maillardet's automaton - signed poem
More recently, this automaton was inspiration for Brian Selznick's book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which features an automaton very much like Maillardet's.

Here is a longer video shot in November of 2007, when Brian Selznick visited The Franklin Institute for a signing of his book. Andrew Baron, master mechanician, is man operating the machine in this video.
My sincere thanks goes out to The Franklin Institute and the many people who contributed to the demonstration I was fortunate enough to witness.

While you may not be so lucky as to see the automaton in operation, it is on permanent display and features a great exhibit complete with a wonderful, informative video (not shown here). I am certain that the Amazing Machines exhibit will appeal to readers of The Automata / Automaton Blog, as will the museum as a whole. If you will be anywhere near Philadelphia, I urge you to plan a trip to The Franklin Institute.

You can learn more about Maillardet's writing and drawing automaton at The Franklin Institute's page on Maillardet's Automaton and another page they have with information about the automaton.

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Musical Machines & Living Dolls exhibit

Musical Machines & Living Dolls exhibit
The Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey, is home to a large and impressive collection of automata and mechanical music machines. There is a nice review of the exhibit over at the Curious Expeditions blog.

From the blog post about the museum:

The museum does a nice job displaying these fragile, if eerie, machines. Short films show the more delicate automatons in action and a daily demonstration displays some of the less delicate pieces. Beautiful and strange automatons line the walls behind glass cases, in sumptuous dress, with bright faces. Those that do not fit in the gallery are on display in the basement, a storeroom of lonely un-wound figures behind two panes of glass for curious visitors to peer at.

Read the complete review and check out this flickr set of photos from the Morris Museum.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Film about Spain's traveling automata theater

The Teatro De Automatas
The Teatro De Automatas is a traveling automata theater. The automata are mounted to the back of a truck. Once on the scene, an elaborate and beautiful stage and tent are set up around the truck to hide it and showcase the diverse automata that make up the exhibit. Their web site features a wonderful 10 minute film (in Spanish) that profiles this amazing theater. There are many nice shots of the exposed automata mechanisms. Whether you understand Spanish or not, it is well worth watching.

Here is a link to the film on the traveling automata theater -- The Teatro De Automatas.

[ Thanks Mario! ]

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Assembled Artifacts exhibit at Device Gallery

Assembled Artifacts exhibit at Device Gallery
A show title 'Assembled Artifacts' opens this evening, Saturday July 18 at 6:30 at The Device Gallery located at 1815-B Main Street San Deigo, California.

The show features work by:
Christopher Conte, Stephane Halleux, Michihuro Matsuoka, Jeremy Mayer, Rich Muller, Nemo Gould, Olivier Pauwels, Lewis Tardy and Jud Turner

Here is the link for more information on Assembled Artifacts exhibit.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Giant girl puppet on the move again in France

I've posted in the past about the giant marionette of a little girl created by a group called Royal de Luxe. Brought to life with the aid of cranes, block-and-tackle, and a team of puppeters, the girl was on the move again last month in a piece called "La géante du Titanic et le scaphandrier".

Here is a link with photographs and more information (in French) on La géante du Titanic et le scaphandrier.

Shown here is a video segment of one portion of the performance.

[ Thanks Bonne-voglie! ]

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Greg Brotherton on kinetic sculpture, Pendulum

For me, one of the highlights of last weekend's Maker Faire 2009 was the exhibit put on by the Applied Kinetic Arts group. I'm not alone in this opinion for they walked away from the event with 8 Editor's Choice Awards. Here Greg Brotherton answers questions about his piece 'Pendulum'.

Learn more about Applied Kinetic Arts on their web site.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

IT MOVED kinetic art exhibition at Device Gallery

IT MOVED kinetic art exhibition at Device Gallery
The Device Gallery's upcoming showed, IT MOVED, is an exploration of the kinetic art form. The show will feature the work of Greg Brotherton, Benjamin Cowden, Tom Haney, Nemo Gould and Reuben Margolin.

The Opening Reception will be Saturday, April 25th, 2009 from 6:30 - 9:30PM. The show itself will run from April 25 - June 20, 2009.

Device Gallery
1815 B Main Street
San Diego CA 92113

Visit the Device Gallery web site for more information on this show.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

automatesgalerie - automata museum in Belgium

Our colleagues at the Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik blog have alerted us to some exciting news. A new automata museum has open in Brussels, Belgium featuring the following automata artists:

- Keith Newstead
- Robert Race
- John Grayson
- J Ch Detallante
- L & A St-Léger
- Wanda Sowry
- Philip Lowndes
- Peter Lennertz
- Neil Hardy
- Jason Cleverly
- James Chedburn
- Jacques Jauniaux
- Ian Mckay
- Dominique Corbin
- Carlos Zapata
- Jon Mills
- Jan Zalud

Learn more at the automatesgalerie web site.
[ Thanks Falk! ]

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Monks at Exploratorium make cardboard automata

As part of the Exporatorium's Cardboard Automata activity, a group of monks observed, discussed, and then made their own hand-cranked automata. So cool!

See photographs and read more about the monks' adventures during this workshop on the Learning Studio Blog.

[ Thanks philsing! ]

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Kinetica Art Fair exhibit opens February 27th, 2009

Kinetica Art Fair exhibit 2009
Kinetica Art Fair is the UK's first art fair dedicated to kinetic, robotic, sound, light and time-based art. The exhibit opens in London on Friday 27 February, 2009.
More than 25 galleries and organisations specialising in kinetic, electronic and new media art are taking part with over 150 exhibiting artists. The Fair will be like no other with living, moving, speaking and performing art.

The Fair provides unparalleled opportunities for the public and collectors alike to view and buy work from this thriving international movement and to participate in the programme of talks, workshops and performances.

Here is the link to the site for Kinetica Art Fair 2009.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

'Batteries Not Included!' mechanical toy exhibit

Batteries Not Included! mechanical toy exhibit
To celebrate the history of moving toys, the Fairfield Museum and History Center has a new exhibit called 'Batteries Not Included!'

The exhibit features mechanical toys dating from the late 1800s to the mid-20th century. No plastics here: the toys are made of painted tin, tinplated steel, and cast iron. Show above is a mechanical tin beetle made by E. P. Lehmann of Germany, patent in 1895.

The exhibit opens to the public on Friday, February 2oth, 2009.

Here is where you can get more information on the Batteries Not Included! toy exhibit.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Tom Haney a highlight of the LA Art Show

Tom Haney's work was a hit at the Los Angles Art Show based on the following quote from a recent article.

From the article:New Orleans based Red Truck Gallery featured apple-crate sized works by an awesomely intricate inventor-sculptor-artist Tom Haney. If you click the photo (right) you can see a movie of this piece which showcases the street-seller opening and closing his jacket to reveal his wears, looking indeed quite dubious. Haney says on his site that most of his time is spent behind the scenes orchestrating the mechanics that move his pieces.

Here is a link to the article Highlights from the LA Art Show.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

'Illumination', third recent Automaton by Tom Haney

Illumination Automaton by Tom HaneyHere is the third of the recent motorized automaton by Tom Haney. This one is entitled 'Illumination'. This piece along with the other two -- 'Dubious' and 'Relique' -- will be on display at the Los Angeles Art Show at the LA Convention Center from January 21st to 25th, 2009.

Here's a link to images, movies, and in-progress shots of Illumination by Tom Haney.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

'Relique' - Motorized automaton by Tom Haney

Another great motorized automaton from Tom Haney -- one of three that will be on display at the Los Angeles Art Show at the LA Convention Center from January 21st to 25th, 2009.

Among many things I like about Tom's work are the cases he builds to hold them. They seem to mesh perfectly with the vintage feel of the characters and subjects -- providing additional context for the entire thing.

Here's a link to images, movies, and in-progress shots of 'Relique' by Tom Haney.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

'Dubious' - Awesome automaton BY Tom Haney

Take a look at the shady character depicted in Tom Haney's new automaton entitled Dubious.

This charming piece and two others (stay tuned to this channel!) will be on display at the Los Angeles Art Show at the LA Convention Center from January 21st to 25th, 2009.

Here's a link to images, movies, and in-progress shots of Dubious by Tom Haney.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dale Mathis solo art show in Las Vegas

Mechanical artist, Dale Mathis, will be showing dynamic art pieces in his first solo show. The show, called "Steam Funk", opens on January 31st, 2009 in Las Vegas.

Details on the Dale Mathis solo show:
Oh, My Godard Gallery
Planet Hollywood Hotel, Las Vegas
Saturday, January 31st from 5-9pm
Free and open to the public

Visit his web site for more about Dale Mathis and his art.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

A new kinetic robot sculpture from Nemo Gould

The Performer kinetic robot sculpture from Nemo Gould
Artist Nemo Gould has a new piece to share. Shown here is the new sculpture, entitled 'Performer #2'. Details about the piece are now posted on his site and the sculpture itself will be on display later this month at the Sonoma County Museum in Santa Rosa CA.

Here is a link to the Performer #2 page on Nemo Gould's Site.

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Musical Wonder House in Wiscasset, Maine

Musical Wonder House in Wiscasset, Maine
The Musical Wonder House, located in Wiscasset, Maine, is a unique museum featuring more than 5000 restored musical boxes, player grand pianos and organs, spring-wound phonographs, musical birds, porcelains, furniture, clocks, steins, whistlers, a musical painting, and 23 antique coin-operated machines.

The collection is housed in a 32-room mansion dating to 1852. They have an impressive gift shop and -- for the serious collector -- they offer a selection of restored antique musical boxes for sale.

Here is a link to the website of the Musical Wonder House and here is were you can take a virtual tour of the Musical Wonder House.

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Tom Haney automata in New York city - Now!

Automaton artist Tom Haney will have several pieces showing at the Chelsea Market in New York City, starting today -- December 6th through December 23rd, 2008. They will be exhibited by Brian Foster Studio in a show called 'Jingle in Chelsea Market'.

The Chelsea Market is located at 75 9th Ave. between 15th and 16th and will be open everyday from 10:30am - 7:30pm. Learn more at

If you live in the area or happen to be passing through New York for the holidays, stop by and see some of Tom Haney's amazing creations!

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Applied Kinetic Arts group show in San Francisco

Applied Kinetic Arts group show  in San Francisco
Applied Kinetic Arts is a name used by a group of talented artists who share similar approaches to making art. The group includes the following artists:

* Nemo Gould
* Reuben Margolin
* Christopher Palmer
* Mark Galt
* Benjamin Cowden

They will have a combined show at the Y2Y gallery in San Francisco. Each artist will be contributing a few pieces. The Y2Y Gallery is located at 251 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA, USA. The show will run from November 21, 2008 through January 23, 2009. The opening reception will be on Friday November 21, 2008 6-9PM.

Here are the details of the show.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Roland Emett sculpture exhibit - Ontario, Canada

Kinetic sculptures by Roland Emett are put on display once a year during the holiday season at the Ontario Science Centre.

Learn more about the Ontario Science Centre.

[ Thanks Keith! ]

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Automata and Social Issues: Anti-War Automata

I posted recently about an automaton that is not based your typical whimsical/humorous theme. Here is a video showing an entire exhibit of automata on a common them addressing a social and political issue.

It's rare to see an exhibit of automata with a common theme. I think you will agree that some of them are very powerful.

[ Thanks David! ]

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Video Tour of the Modern Automata Museum, Italy

Here is a great video tour of the Modern Automata Museum in Italy.

More on info (mostly in Italian) can be found on the Modern Automata Museum web site.

[ Thanks David! ]

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Paul Boyer Automata and Kinetic Creations Video

I had seen video of some of Paul Boyer's automata, but I had no idea of this man's creative diversity! He has created plenty of motorized automata, graceful wire creations, a wind calliope, kinetic sculptures, and even a drum playing marble-track machine.

Here is a nice long video taking you on a virtual tour of The Paul Boyer Museum of Animated Carvings in Belleville Kansas.

A remarkable body of work.

[ Thanks Osmyn! ]

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Build-A-Tune: Programmable Thumb Piano

Here is another great creation from the talented Brad Litwin, maker of The Atom Smacker and other mechanical wonders. The piece is now on exhibit at the Dupage Children's Museum, in Naperville, IL.

This machine uses a series of studded disks to pluck the tongues on an instrument resembling a thumb piano tilted on its side. As the notes to the video remark, by rearranging the disks, the Build-A-Tune offers a near-infinite combination of rhythmic sequences, many of which sound a bit like music out of Africa or a rudimentary electronic sequencer.

Learn more about Brad and his creations at

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Animatronic "Village Pet Store And Charcoal Grill"

This video of an Pet Store/Grill Restaurant mashup uses some of the most clever, funny, and thought-provoking animatronics I have ever seen. I had never considered mechanizing and animating a hot dog. Remarkable work.

Banksy's Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill is in New York's West Village on 7th Avenue between West 4th and Bleeker Street.

This enchanted Village Pet Store/Grill comes to us from The Wooster Collective via a post on

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Photos of Automata in Paul Spooner's Tribute

Paul Spooner: A Cheap Automata Shop
Our colleagues and friends over at the blog Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik have directed me to a massive picture pool of automata by dozens of artists that participated in the exhibit celebrating Paul Spooner.

Paul Clarke, and his mother Margery Clarke, operate "The First Gallery" in Southampton, England. The assemblage of photos is by Paul Clarke and is located on the Gallery's website.

Visit the Paul Spooner Tribute Exhibit photograph page.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Steve Gerberich: Springs Sprockets & Pulleys

Steve Gerberich: Springs Sprockets & PulleysIf you will be in Iowa between September to December 2008, check out the exhibit of the work of Steve Gerberich at the Waterloo Center for the Arts. Made from old machines, kitchen utensils, junk, lighting fixtures, medical supplies, toys, and figurines, his work blends mechanical motion and keen inventiveness.

See more kinetic sculpture by Steve Gerberich on his web site.

This news comes to us by way of a Cabaret Mechanical Theatre blog.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Tom Haney Exhibit Opens Today in Atlanta

A reminder: Tom Haney's new show opens today September 26th, 2008 at Mason Murer Fine Art in Atlanta!

Get the details at the Mason Murer Fine Art.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Masterful Balboa Park Carousel Egg

The Balboa Park Carousel Egg -- the fifth such egg completed by J. Grahl Design -- is a precise miniature reproduction of the Balboa Park Carousel. The egg features some 56 hand-carved carousel animals, detailed paintings, lights, and decorative trimmings.

18 years in the making, J. Grahl Design commissioned a team of master jewelers, machinists, wax carvers, crystal experts, sculptors, artists, and woodworkers to construct the egg.

Even the music mechanism was created by hand -- and when wound, plays a repertoire of 20 songs from the late 1890s. This fantastic piece weighs in at 80 pounds and with its base and music stand, reaches a height of 27 inches.

The egg is composed of nearly 5,000 parts of an astonishing variety of fine materials including:

* 22 Karat gold used for the outer decorative embellishments
* 20 carats of very high quality diamonds
* Platinum used for setting all diamonds
* Sterling silver overlaid with 18K gold for the base of the egg shell
* Lead Crystal - optical grade
* Brass, and bronze, cast iron, stainless and carbon steels
* Bird's eye maple

To view more work by J. Grahl visit

[ Thanks Nick! ]

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Let's Put Boyer's Automata on the Map in Kansas!

The Boyer Museum of Animated Carvings is a finalist for the 8 Wonders of Kansas Art title because of more than 65 motion displays including hand-carved figurines made by Kansas artist Paul Boyer.

The Boyer Museum of Animated Carvings in Belleville, KS is owned and operated by Paul Boyer's daughters, Ann and Candy. Some days Paul is in the museum tuning up his displays. Paul's wish for the future is to keep his collection together where people can see it and enjoy it. Let's help them out by voting for them!

You do not need to be from Kansas to vote. You can vote 3 times using the same e-mail address. You will need to vote for 7 other nominees in addition to your vote for the Boyer Museum of Animated Carvings. Voting ends October 15, 2008.

Vote for The Boyer Museum of Animated Carvings to be one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Art.

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Article on the Exhibit Celebrating Paul Spooner

Article on the Exhibit Celebrating Paul Spooner
The eminent automaton artist, Paul Spooner, will be honored in an exhibit featuring his work and the work of dozens of other automaton makers. This is sure to be an amazing exhibit.

They will also be devoting a portion of the space to honor Sam Smith (1908 - 1983), a sculptor whose work inspired Paul Spooner, Peter Markey, Frank Nelson, and many others to become automaton makers.

The exhibit will be at The First Gallery in Southampton.

Here is a link to the article on the exhibit to honor Paul Spooner's 60th Birthday. Here is a link to the image gallery of automata to be shown in the exhibit.

Found via Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik

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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Cabaret Mechanical Theatre - Automata Website!

There are many notable figures who helped to bring automata as an art form into the latter part of of the Twentieth Century. Among them are Alexander Calder, Sam Smith, Jean Tinguely, Frank Nelson, and Rodney Peppé, and Falk Keuten.

Cabaret Mechanical Theatre, its creators, and its artists also deserve very special recognition in defining and popularizing contemporary automata as an art form. They have just launched a redesigned web site that is full of great information, both old and new.

Here is a link to Cabaret Mechanical Theatre's new web site. Enjoy!

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Wood Gears & Swedish Gadgets by Per Heldorff

Wood Gears and Swedish Gadgets by Per Heldorff
Master carver Per Heldorff began carving in the Swedish slöjd tradition and progressed to mechanical work incorporating cogs, wooden gears, and animated figures. As with most contemporary automata artists, his work often contains a whimsical element.

The work of master Swedish carver Per Heldorff will be featured at The American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. The exhibit is entitled "Wooden Gears and Swedish Gadgets" and runs from August 6th through September 28th, 2008.

Here is a link to Per Heldorff's web site.

Here is a book for further reading on Swedish carving techniques -- Carving & Whittling: The Swedish Style.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New pieces from Gina Kamentsky on Display

Gina Kamentsky's Go Go ChickenToday, Tuesday July 15th 2008, Gina Kamentsky will be installing 3 new pieces in her Fuller Craft Museum show entitled Mechanical Confections, which runs through November 9th, 2008.

Gina Kamentsky -- sculptor, animator, designer and teacher -- has spent most of her life creating objects and media for the amusement of children and adults. In this exhibition, she combines fantasy and reality in one-of-a-kind mechanical toys and kinetic sculptures.

Here is a link more information on her show Gina Kamentsky: Mechanical Confections.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Many Links to the Guinness Collection of Automata

Mandolin Player Automaton from the Guinness collecttion
Check out the Murtogh D. Guinness collection at the Morris Museum in Morristown, N.J. -- about 20 minutes from Newark.

The exhibit -- to be opened on November 6th, 2008 -- features mechanical musical instruments and automata from the late 1500s through the early 20th century.

Assembled by the Guinness family (of brewing fame), the collection includes some 700 music boxes, multi-instrument devices, street organs, and mechanical figures.

* Here is a link to Morris Museum web site.
* Here is a link to the Guinness collection of automata page.
* Here is an article on the exhibit from The New York Times.
* There is also an article on the exhibit in the January 2008 issue of Magic magazine (Back issues, $6 USD).

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tinguely's Dream, Electro-mechanical Automaton

The Automata / Automaton Blog is pleased to present you with a special sneak preview of Tom Haney's new work. The piece is named Tinguely's Dream after one of his favorite kinetic artist, Jean Tinguely.

The automaton features a figure riding a strange and wonderful bike. As seen in the video above, an electric motor powers 3 non-concentric wheels and gives the bike and its rider a gentle rocking motion. Watch someone riding a bike and you'll appreciate this beautiful subtlety.

Tom Haney is working on similar pieces for an upcoming gallery show at Mason Murer Fine Art in Atlanta. The show opens September 26th, 2008 and runs through November 7th, 2008. He plans to have 10 to 12 electro-mechanical pieces. Most of the pieces will incorporate antique and/or found objects as well as electric lights.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mythical Automata Shop: THE HOUSE OF SYBIL

Maria and Michael start have just competed this piece for an upcoming exhibition.

From the Artists:
"The building itself is a living entity with an eye for its sight and a heaving floor for breath. The cellar imprisons innocence, whilst for those on the first floor conventional life has departed with the knife. Within the shop the Alchemist works with complete precision of word and deed. Like a watchmaker, he first re-assembles the spirit, and then the careful application of electrical fluence allows the invigoration of the automata, which you see for sale in the ground floor Salon of The House of Sybil."

This is one of 24 pieces that will form the exhibition in the Elissa Cristall Gallery opening on the 23rd of May, 2008.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Automatons: Museu de Joguets i Autòmats

The Museum of Toys and Automata (Museu de Joguets i Autòmats) is located in the town of Verdú, outside of Barcelona.

The museum's collection is composed of over 1000 pieces and features many vintage automata. Most of the automata were manufactured in France during the last decades of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.

This video clip features some of the pieces in the collection...and the song is really good!

Here is a link to Museu de Joguets i Autòmats.

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Gina Kamentsky Exhibit: Mechanical Confections

Gina Kamentsky SculptureGina Kamentsky is profiled in the Volume 13 of MAKE magazine (the same issue with my short book review of Dunninger's Complete Encyclopedia of Magic).

Gina Kamentsky is an multi-talented sculptor, animator, toy designer, inventor, musician, and teacher. Kamentsky works primarily with found materials and metal to create unique mechanical toys and kinetic sculptures.

Her solo exhibition, Gina Kamentsky: Mechanical Confections, will be on exhibition in Fuller Craft Museum's Daniel Tarlow gallery through November 9, 2008. She will be on site on March 2nd at 2:00 as part of Fuller Craft Museum's series, Objectively Speaking.

Here's a link to Fuller Craft Museum exhibits page.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

MAKE Finds Wood Automata @ NYC Toy Fair 2008

Phillip Torrone of MAKE Magazine is in New York City covering Toy Fair, 2008. Among his favorite finds this year: Timberkits wood automata!

Here's a link to his post about TimberKits at The NYC Toy Fair, 2008.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Maillardet's Automaton at Franklin Institute Draws

The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia -- home to Henri Maillardet's drawing automaton -- has recently updated their site.

In addition to the video seen above, there is some (remarkable) history about the piece, images of drawings that the automaton creates, and shots of the intricate clockwork brass mechanism.

Learn more about Maillardet's Automaton at The Franklin Institute.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

PhantasieMechanik Exhibition at phaeno

Head over to The Mechanical Blog to read their recent posting about an upcoming exhibition in Wolfsburg, Germany.

The show will include 40 pieces from Cabaret Mechanical Theatre and 18 from American artist Arthur Ganson. There will also be works by Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre, Eduard Bersudsky, and Norman Tuck.

Read all of the details about The PhantasieMechanik Exhibit.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Zelinsky Collection Viewable on DVD

The Musée Mécanique, located in San Francisco, is a collection of hundreds of musical and mechanical machines. It is certainly worth a visit.

If you can't visit San Francisco any time soon, there is still a way for you to see this amazing collection: The Musée Mécanique presents The Zelinsky Collection DVD.

This 68 minute video is hosted by the man who assembled the collection, Edward Zelinsky. Mr. Zelinsky takes the viewer on a one-on-one tour of The Musée telling you a bit about each machine, where it came from, and how it was acquired.

Some of the machines the viewer will see on this DVD include:

* Many orchestrians and nickelodeons
* A beautiful mechanical horse
* Fortune telling machines
* Mechanical games
* A large and detailed carnival scene
* A vast barnyard scene with dozens of animated figures
* Funny scenes like a drunkard in a graveyard

Viewers also get to see some of the mechanisms that power these marvelous machines.

Overall, the lighting and camera-work are well done. This DVD is the next best thing to visiting the museum itself.

The video is something of a tribute to a man that truly loved coin-operated machines. We are in Edward Zelinsky's debt for assembling this collection and for ensuring that the machines continued to function. His son, Daniel Zelinsky, now oversees the exhibit. Thanks to these men visitors today can drop a coin into these machines -- as people have for decades -- to see what mechanical magic they perform.

Here is where you can purchase The Musée Mécanique presents The Zelinsky Collection DVD.

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Musee National De Monaco - Automata Collection

A reader of The Automata / Automaton Blog has kindly directed me to a fantastic museum with automata.

If you find yourself in the south of France and like automata, the Musee National De Monaco is an incredible museum.

They have a collection of Parisian automata from the latter half of the 19th Century.

I am told they offer a tour in which the guide operates many of the automata for visitors.

Visit the web site for the Musee National De Monaco.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Musee Mecanique: The Zelinsky Collection

The Musee Mecanique is one of the world's largest privately owned collections of coin-operated mechanical musical instruments and antique arcade machines.

A collection of over 300 items including orchestrions, coin operated pianos, antique slot machines, and animations, small bird boxes and even a steam-powered motorcycle were collected by the late Edward Galland Zelinsky (1922-2004).

The good news is that the majority of this vast private collection is on public display and you can see the machines in action!

If you are visiting the San Francisco area, The Musee Mecanique is located on Pier 45 at the foot of Taylor Street in San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. And hey...admission is free.

The Musee Mecanique has an excellent web site providing some history of the collection, an online shop, and many wonderful photos of their attractions.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dug North Monster No. 1 Work-in-Progress

I am thrilled to be part of a an exhibit in my home town called: Made in Harvard.

The show is being put on by an organization called "For Art's Sake", an association supporting art in the Harvard schools and community.

I will be showing a functional mechanical prototype of a piece with the working title of Monster No. 1. The automaton features a small, but presumably nasty little monster who is struggling to break free of the chains that keep him from creating who-knows-what-kind of havoc.

The card of the front of the motorized display case reads:
Monster No. 1
being a model conceived & created for use in the evaluation of
form, design, performance, et cet. of divers examples to follow

by Mr. D. North - MECHANICIAN

Stay tuned for a short video clip in the near future!

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Hitchcocks' Automata Exhibit @ Bridport Art Centre

Hitchcocks of Bath is a web site / gallery that features British mechanical toys, German folk toys, cut outs, and hand made wooden toys for children.

Here is a page showing automata that are currently on display and for sale at the Bridport Art Centre in Dorset, UK.

Among the distinguished automata artists are: Jan Zalud, Wanda Sowry, Robert Race, Simon Venus, Ian McKay, Peter Markey, Rachel Larkins, Ron Fuller, John Grayson, and Melanie Tomlinson.

Visit the page for Hitchcocks' at the Bridport Art Centre 2007

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Automata Exhibits in the USA, Summer 2007

Want to see some automata in the USA this summer? Here's a few exhibits to consider:

1 - Cabaret Mechancial Theatre has a touring exhibit currently in Salina, Kansas

2 - The Murtogh D. Guinness Collection can be seen in Morristown, New Jersey

3 - The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is home to Maillardet's famous drawing automaton

4 - The Charles River Museum of Industry in Waltham, Massachusetts has a small international showing of contemporary automata (with a Dug North included!)

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Automaton: A Boybot & His Dogbot by Dug North

I have made some additions and put the finishing touches on an automaton I started a few years ago: A Boybot and His Dogbot.

Stylistically, this piece is different than my other automata in that I have used geometric shapes for the figures and have decided to leave the wood unfinished. I experimented with painting the figures, but they lost too much of their charm.

The piece is on public display at The Charles River Museum of Industry in Waltham, Massachusetts, USA.

Here's a link to detailed pictures of the figures and the mechanism from A Boybot and His Dogbot.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Nemomatic show this Friday - Berkeley, CA

Sculptor and automata-maker Gould Nemo (Nemomatic) will be participating in the group show: "Recovery" at the ACCI Gallery in Berkeley, CA, USA along with other artists who work with recycled material.

This will be the first opportunity to see his new Giant Robot sculpture before it is permanently installed at a private residence.

Also on display will be his amazing Giant Squid automaton.

Learn more at the News section of

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Great Review of CMT Exhibit with Photo Sets

Over at the Pixelsumo blog, the author has a great review of a visit to the newly opened Cabaret Mechanical Theatre exhibit at Kinetica Museum that I told you about here.

The post features links to a huge set of flickr photos of the show itself.

Check out this great review of the CMT show at Pixelsumo.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Cabaret Mechanical Theatre at Kinetica Museum

If you can be or will be in the UK between April 6, 2007 and May 5, 2007 you must visit Kinetica Museum located at Old Spitalfields Market, London.

Kinetica will be hosting
a major retrospective show on Cabaret Mechanical Theatre which includes more than 80 automata and a number of previously unseen works.

The show will feature artists including: Ron Fuller, Arthur Ganson, Tim Hunkin, Will Jackson, Pierre Mayer, Keith Newstead, Paul Spooner, and Carlos Zapata. (Many of my favorite artists are in that list!)

The exhibition will also include a series of talks and hands-on workshops by the founders of CMT and prominent British automata artists. Speakers will include: Tim Hunkin, Sue Jackson, Sarah Alexander, Will Jackson and Paul Spooner.

Learn more at CMT's Mechanical Blog or visit Kinetica Museum's site

Cabaret Mechanical Theatre (CMT) dates back to 1979, when a handful of automaton artists began to work together as an artists collective.

The group, founded in 1983 in Falmouth by Sue Jackson, moved to London’s Covent Garden shortly thereafter, where their collection of automata immediately received both critical and popular acclaim.

They produced a book (shown at left) that teaches about basic mechanics and the construction of automata.

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Friday, December 29, 2006

A Cabinet of Curiosities

I was fortunate enough to see a DVD recently released by Cabaret Mechanical Theatre -- home to many great automata-makers. I was delighted to see work by CMT artists old and new. The DVD covers many items currently available in their online store. For example:

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

20 Antique Automata Sold from Merritt Collection

Sale Of Mary Merritt Museum Dolls And Toys Nears $2.5 Million

From the article:
Approximately 20 automata by premium name manufacturers were offered. Leading the group, a circa 1875 Roullet et Descamps boy on a clockwork tricycle earned $34,100 against an estimate of $15/18,000. A rare 29-inch-tall girl automaton holding a toy theater and accompanied by a cat in a wicker basket, also by Roullet et Descamps, handily surpassed its estimate at $20,900.

Here's a link to the full artcle about the Merritt Collection Sale

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Exhibition from the British Toymakers Guild

From November 16th to December 3rd, 2006, the British Toymakers Guild returns to, London, to show and sell hand-crafted automata, dolls, puzzles, games, puppets, hobby horses, wooden toys and more.

The work has been created by over 30 makers from all over the British Isles.

Here's the official TOYS@OXO web page

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Dug North - Santa Automaton on Display!

If you live in Massachusetts or New England or are planning on visiting the Boston area, you can see one of my automata in person. I've allowed the museum to let people turn the crank themselves.

My automton Training for Christmas featuring Santa Claus doing exercises, is on display at The Charles River Museum of Industry in Waltham, Massachusetts, USA. The exhibit shows automata through time and has a section featuring automata that visitors can operate. My piece is on display among a number of others by automata artists you may know, and some you may not know, but should.

The museum has lots of other things of interest to the mechanically-minded: engines, machine tools, pocket watches, bicycles, and a car from 1907!

Here's a link with contact information and directions to The Charles River Museum of Industry.

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